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Inside Apple's new Mac mini Server

post #1 of 177
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While Appleinsider predicted the arrival of a new dual-drive, optical-free Mac mini, Apple managed keep secret its plans to introduce a new Mac mini server bundle up to its relatively subtle launch this week. Now the company faces the task of publicizing its availability as it works to enter a market it hasn't excelled at in the past.

The new Mac mini server offering isn't just optimized to run Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server, but now actually comes bundled with Apple's server operating system software. Previously, home and small business users who wanted to try Snow Leopard Server needed to shell out $500 for the retail box version or opt for an Xserve bundle, which starts at $3000 and requires either a server rack or a sizably awkward 17"x30" of free space.

Prior to Snow Leopard, the unlimited user version of Mac OS X Server cost $999; that's what the unlimited user version now costs with the Mac mini server thrown in for free. The server version of the new Mac mini drops the optical drive to make room for two 500GB, 5400 RPM 2.5" (laptop style) SATA hard drives. It also supplies a capable 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of fast 1066 MHz DDR3 RAM (expandable to 8GB). This is all fit into the same 6.5" square, 2" high Mac mini enclosure, which weighs in at just 2.9 pounds.

Compared to the conventional, high end model of the revamped Mac mini lineup, you get three times the disk storage (without a built-in optical drive) for just $200 more. So essentially, Apple is now giving away Snow Leopard Server in the Mac mini server bundle just as the company always has on the Xserve. For the first time ever, this provides Apple with an entry-level server to position at the home server niche and relatively sizable small business market.

Mac vs generic PC in the mini server category

Compared to other small form factor PC servers, the Mac mini server supplies a far more powerful processor than the low-powered Atom or Celeron found in many mini computers such as the $350 Asus Eee Box (which is not sold as a server nor really designed to perform like one). That machine also supplies slower DDR2 RAM, lacks the Mac mini's FireWire 800 for fast external expansion, and hard drives top out at 180 GB.

Most importantly however, low cost small PCs typically ship with Windows XP Home in order to cut costs. That means to do "server" things, you'll have to spend at least $460 on Amazon's "Microsoft Small Business Server Standard 2003 R2 32-bit for System Builders," which includes a five user license. Licensing for additional users costs between $50 to $60 each, or can be purchased in blocks of five for $150.

Small Business Server Standard combines a copy of Windows Server 2003 with a version of Exchange Server (for calendaring, contacts and email messaging); Microsoft's Internet Information Services (web server); Windows SharePoint Services (for collaboration); Routing and Remote Access Service (for dialup access, VPN, routing, and NAT services); Windows Server Update Services (for update management across the network); and a fax server.

Microsoft's "Small Business" bundle is designed to serve small office needs without encroaching on the company's larger server business, where it makes its money. For this reason, the Small Business bundle is restricted in various ways. You can only run one instance of it on the same domain (so you can't buy and set up multiple Small Business Servers to run on the same network); it's limited from joining other domains (such as your larger corporate directories); it can only support a maximum of 75 users; and some features are artificially limited in various ways, such as the Exchange database being fixed to no larger than 18GB. That means if you have 20 users, each person's mailbox and calendar would have to be less than 1GB. The 2003 version is also limited to running 32-bit apps only and to using 4GB of RAM.

If you opt for the latest 2008 version of Small Business Server Standard, you have to shell out at least $760 for the first five users, but it allows you to run 64-bit apps and use up to 64GB RAM. Of course, all 64-bit editions of Windows require 64-bit hardware, so SBS 2008 won't run on a low end Atom, Celeron, or Core Duo processors used in most small form factor PCs.

SBS 2008 still imposes the same bundle restrictions however (along with some new ones, such as not being able to use it directly connected to the Internet as a router without an external firewall), so for unlimited, unrestricted use you'd need the full version of Windows Server, Exchange, and SharePoint, which immediately prices you out of the mini server category, as even the licensing for five users begins at a steep $5,900 and quickly inches up to $20,000 for a single server supporting 100 users.

In comparison, the version of Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server bundled on the Mac mini is the same as you'd get at retail or on an Xserve. Like Microsoft's Small Business Server package, Snow Leopard Server bundles both core server features (DNS, DHCP, directory services, and file and print sharing services with support for Macs, Windows, and other Unix/Linux clients); calendar, chat and email services (with mobile push messaging and calendaring support); web and web-based wiki, blog, and calendar collaboration features; routing, firewall, RADIUS, and VPN services; and client machine backups, software update, and group policy management features.

Mac OS X Server also supplies some unique features of its own, including Podcast Producer for automating video editing workflows from capture to delivery; Xgrid distributed processing; QuickTime Streaming Server for broadcasting media streams; and NetBoot/NetInstall for supporting diskless workstations and remote imaging client machines. The product is not restricted to a certain number of users, and any number of Mac mini servers can be set up on the same network, participate in any number of directory domains, and services can consume as much disk space as the hardware allows. Key services are also 64-bit across the board in Snow Leopard Server.

In contrast, Microsoft's lower cost appliance offering, called Windows Home Server, only offers basic file, web, backup, and media streaming services, not all the things a small office user would want to do.



On page 2 of 3: Apple's fledgling small server business.

Apple's fledgling small server business

Clearly, in the small server business Apple can offer something it doesn't offer in the desktop PC market: a huge price advantage on top of its reputation for premium hardware and sophisticated software integration. Still to be determined is whether Apple can convince home users that they need a server, and that they should pay $999 to get one.

Aside from its core customer base of individuals, Apple is also targeting the Mac mini server version at small businesses, most of whom won't need much convincing that they need a server, nor will have much resistance to paying $999 for a solution that makes setting up their workgroup services easy. As noted previously, there isn't much available between the more expensive Windows Server offerings of Microsoft, very basic file sever and media streaming appliances (often referred to as Network Attached Storage), and DIY solutions that necessitate significant Linux savvy to deliver features approaching those of Mac OS X Server.

To reach business users, Apple has to sell companies on ease of use, reliability, and support. Unlike most generic PC vendors with a significant server business such as Dell or HP, Apple does not really offer any suitable support options that larger businesses demand, such as same day or next day service contracts. However, by packaging its server product with low end hardware, Apple may be able to pick off lots of low hanging fruit in small office or home office settings where users are willing to handle their own support.

Making servers simple

Apple's entire business with Mac OS X was to take Unix and make it friendly and usable by mere mortals. Accomplishing this on the consumer desktop certainly wasn't easy (witness the issues with Linux on the desktop), but it was relatively straightforward compared to trying to do the same in a server offering.

The server space is more challenging to productize in the same way because it's harder to pare down what "most people" want to do and then target 80% of those common tasks with simple solutions. Many users who recognize a need for a server outline custom requirements for themselves and subsequently craft specialized systems tuned specifically to solve their needs. This has resulted in lots of popularity for Linux, which provides nearly infinite customizability, but hasn't worked spectacularly for Apple's "one size fits most" philosophy in selling Mac servers.

Apple is not the first company to try to greatly simplify server tools. In large measure, Microsoft introduced the first mainstream server products with push button simplicity in Windows NT, which borrowed its heavy dependance upon a graphical interface and its self-tuning design from the Macintosh. It wouldn't even be much of a stretch to say that Microsoft in the 90s delivered the server product Apple never quite managed to get right during the 80s.

Unix system admins of the previous decade, commonly looked down upon Windows NT as simplistic and unreliable. However, for entry level users who cared more about solving a task than impressing gurus with their command line savvy, Windows NT provided an approachable, understandable foundation for solving information technology needs in small and medium sized businesses.

As Microsoft began to force its way into the server market in the late 90s, it was able to incrementally improve its server offerings and add new functionality to the point where by the end of the 90s, the company and its offerings began to be recognized as credible and legitimate in certain markets. Today, Microsoft's $14.1 billion annual server business is just a hair smaller than its Windows client sales ($14.7 billion) and growing faster than its relatively flat Office sales ($18.8 billion). In terms of operating profits, Microsoft's server group brought in $5.3 billion, compared to $10.8 billion for Windows and $12.1 for Office. That indicates that the server market overall isn't quite as close to printing money as Microsoft's top two segments, but that there's still lots of money to go after in that market.

In like Microsoft

Like Microsoft a decade ago, Apple is working to expand its desktop offerings into the server arena while working against resistance from established platforms and users that aren't quite sure whether to take the company seriously yet. Working in Apple's favor is the fact that the foundation of Mac OS X Server is quite familiar to Unix and Linux experts, and that existing software, including almost all open source packages, are relatively easy to port over to Apple's platform. This is particularly the case in 64-bit computing, where Apple used the same model as Sun Solaris and Linux rather than Windows Server's unique 64-bit model. It also helps that Apple has now certified Snow Leopard Server as being fully Unix compliant.

Apple does appear to share one of Microsoft's biggest challenges: how to sell server software to market that has an abundance of free alternatives. Among Linux vendors and system integrators such as Novell, RedHat, and IBM, money is typically earned for providing expert help in getting Linux to work as desired. This works out as a key advantage for Apple, which doesn't primarily sell software directly like Microsoft, but rather uses its software savvy to add value to its hardware sales. From this perspective, Apple is a Unix integrator rather than a server software vendor.

Until now, Mac OS X Server has been reserved for customers willing to spend around $3000 to $6000 on an Xserve or pay $1000 to upgrade an existing Mac. But with Apple now selling Snow Leopard Server for $500 and bundling it on the new $999 Mac Mini, the company's server offerings will both receive a lot more scrutiny as a small business appliance option and test out the company's resolve to invest long term in the server market.

Opportunity rings

In the company's favor is the fact that lots of businesses are evaluating the iPhone. In Apple's most recent earnings conference call, Chief Operations Officer Tim Cook reported that "employee demand for iPhone in the corporate environment is very strong. Since the launch of the iPhone 3GS, which coupled with the software made a number of improvements that CIOs were looking for, the iPhone is either being deployed or being piloted in well over 50% of the Fortune 100, and from an international point of view, if you look at Europe, this is true in about 50% of the Financial Times 100."

Cook added that "another very key market for us that some people call enterprise is that over 350 higher ed institutions have approved iPhone for their faculty, staff and students, and in addition to both of these, we continue to be very happy with our sales in the government arena."

Mac OS X Server has the potential to leverage the iPhone's popularity among business customers because it offers companies with iPhones a variety of complementary services. Among these are wiki collaboration services that are specifically designed to work great out of the box on the iPhone (below) and a new Mobile Access service that allows iPhone users to securely obtain their email, contacts, and calendar and to access internal company websites using the same SSL protocol that banks use in their online operations.



Additionally, Apple supports Snow Leopard Server's CalDAV calendaring, LDAP corporate directory information, and standard Internet email on the iPhone, and supports push email and calendar updates from Server to the iPhone. The iPhone can't help but sell Snow Leopard Server, and the new Mac mini offering provides an easy, low cost way for companies to evaluate these features in supporting their iPhone users.

On page 3 of 3: Server Admin and Server Preferences.

Two birds, one stone

One problem Apple faces in the server market pertains to scope and range. Is the company trying to be the vendor of a flexible, powerful foundation for building open source solutions which necessitates a certain degree of expertise to deploy and maintain, or does it want to offer a refined, point and click appliance that any Mac user can set up and operate?

Both options present plausible opportunities, but trying to deliver a single product that really fits both scenarios without hemming in power users or bowling over novices is certainly a tall order. And yet that's exactly what the company is trying to do. Rather than hit both targets with one shot however, Mac OS X Server presents two primary faces: Server Admin and Server Preferences.

Server Admin

The first, and oldest, is Server Admin. From this single app, administrators can configure, monitor and manage every major service running on the system, from web, print and file sharing to email and calendars to directory services to video production workflows in Podcast Producer and everything in between.

Server Admin isn't really difficult for new users to figure out, but it presents a lot of complex options that entry level users could find overwhelming. It also exposes plenty of potential to set things up wrong or create configurations that don't make sense or result in problems that would be difficult and expensive to troubleshoot.

For the bleeding edge of power users, Server Admin might only address the majority of what they want to accomplish; users who want to install additional server packages are on their own, and must operate these with the same command line or web-based tools that experienced admins on any other *nix-based server system would use. These users have to proceed with some understanding of how Server Admin works in order to prevent conflict between it and their own custom system configurations.

Server Admin's sweet spot also happens to be Mac OS X Server's primary market: education users and small and medium sized businesses that serve Macs. However, this is not really Apple's mainstream user base. Server Admin presents nowhere near the straightforward usability of iLife and iTunes. In order to set things up using Server Admin, users will need a good grounding in moderately advanced server and networking concepts.



Server Preferences

Starting with Leopard Server, Apple introduced a new, highly simplified server tool called Server Preferences. It's pattered after System Preferences on the Mac OS X desktop. It doesn't intend to support every service available, nor does to present more than a few basic options for each component.

During initial setup, users who opt for anything other than the advanced configuration are presented with the extremely basic Server Preferences. In very Mac-like fashion, everything is setup to "just work," although this occurs because all of the dangerous choices are simply unavailable.

Using Server Preferences is literally a matter of clicking large buttons, very similar to turning on Time Machine on desktop Macs. Turn a service on, and it's working, configured the way Apple thinks is best. If you want to customize things, you're probably out of luck because Apple has determined that anything you might adjust probably has repercussions you wouldn't anticipate and which would result in a complex and expensive troubleshooting problems that Apple Store Geniuses will only be able to answer with apologetically blank stares.

For users who just want a file server, email and instant messaging, shared calendars and contacts, an Intranet website with rich blogging and wiki features, along with Time Machine client backups and a VPN and basic firewall, Server Preferences does almost everything for you and works without really needing to crack a manual, the way most Mac users would expect of an Apple product.



Open Directory: you may not know you need it yet

Apple appears to be banking on Server Preferences to serve as the primary interface for Mac mini server users. Behind its toy-like simplicity, it actually provides lots of very powerful features that many home and small business users don't yet know they need, starting with Open Directory. Apple has integrated a variety of very complex and security-sensitive services, including LDAP, Kerberos and a SASL Password Server, and churned out a deceptively simple directory services product that just works, particularly for small installations where additional integration with other corporate directories isn't needed.

What Open Directory does is manage user accounts and passwords on a network level. Rather than dealing with individual user accounts set up on each Mac in your home or business, Open Directory allows you to create one listing of users that every Mac on the network subsequently consults.

This all sounds very boring, but it unlocks all of the interesting features of Mac OS X Server. It allows you to log into any machine on your network using the same password, and then seamlessly access file servers and services without having to present credentials each time. It also allows you to sync all your files between, say, a desktop and workstation via the server, and to share calendars among users, and to publish internal and public blogs and wikis. And once its set up, you should be able to pretty much forget about it.

The end of innocence

Once users get wind of what other things Snow Leopard Server can do, there's zero work involved in upgrading to an advanced configuration using Server Admin; you just open up Server Admin and begin turning on additional services.

Once this happens however, the childlike innocence of Server Preferences vanishes and you must take on the role of a server administrator, which most definitely will require consulting a reference, and perhaps even paying a consultant.

This makes Apple's choice to bundle its unrestricted, full version of Mac OS X Server on the Mac mini interesting. Users who know they don't want to bite off a complex bunch of trouble will be able to set the product up and use it under the simple Server Preferences. But curious or advanced users will have full control to take on as much complexity as they can manage.

Opportunities in small servers

As noted earlier, Microsoft sells a stripped down appliance version of its server software as Windows Home Server; this does little more than support web and file sharing and some PC backup utilities. There's no collaboration or messaging tools, no directory services domain, and no smartphone integration or anything else. It hasn't exactly taken off like wildfire.

Apple doesn't have a lucrative server software business to protect, so it can throw the whole Snow Leopard Server hog at users and let them set up anything they want, constrained only by the limitations of the Mac mini hardware. There's no missing features, no usage limitations, no client access licensing, and no essential server software that has to be purchased separately.

This is Apple's boldest step yet to expand the visibility of Mac OS X Server into untouched greenfields of opportunity in the emerging small server market. It's also one where there isn't much other competition. This will make it interesting to see how much attention Apple can draw for its new Mac mini server.

AppleInsider will be looking at how well Snow Leopard Server works on the low end, light duty Mac mini in future reports that examine Apple's new value proposition for home and small business users.



Daniel Eran Dilger is the author of "Snow Leopard Server (Developer Reference)," a new book from Wiley available now for pre-order.
post #2 of 177
This all sounds great however, how much of it really works? For example, Leopard's Time Machine Server fails to reconnect the server drive after a client's computer goes into sleep mode. Much of OSX Server sounds really good on paper but performs lousy in real life.
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post #3 of 177
What this is really competing against is an HP MediaSmart Server LX195 or EX-490 that comes bundled with Windows Home Server for a total cost of $500. Like the mini it's 64-bit and comes with a server OS and is fully compatible with MacOS X. Unlike the mini it also supports eSATA for fast external drive attachment and has more internal expansion bays as well as selling in multiple configurations to suit your needs.

It's basically a stop-gap measure on Apple's part that seems a little over-priced and under-engineered for its task compared to HP's offering. Yes, it's got a faster processor than the HP but in all other respects it seems to underperform it.
post #4 of 177
It would seem Apple is testing the waters with the Mac Mini server. Essentially the Mac Mini has most of the components necessary to be a blade server. Apple would need to build their own enclosure with a lights-out managment card et al.

One thing I'm not seeing is if there's software RAID for the Mac Mini for those 2 drives (RAID 0 and 1 please).

What people don't understand about the Snow Leopard release is that it was a step forward (albeit a stealthy one) for Apple to move more into the small to medium-sized businesses. There were many new features in the Server version that don't affect consumers so they went under the radar by the masses. In the coming months they'll become more self evident.

I hope the blade servers and maybe clients are on the way from Apple.
post #5 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

What this is really competing against is an HP MediaSmart Server LX195 or EX-490 that comes bundled with Windows Home Server for a total cost of $500. Like the mini it's 64-bit and comes with a server OS and is fully compatible with MacOS X. Unlike the mini it also supports eSATA for fast external drive attachment and has more internal expansion bays as well as selling in multiple configurations to suit your needs.

It's basically a stop-gap measure on Apple's part that seems a little over-priced and under-engineered for its task compared to HP's offering. Yes, it's got a faster processor than the HP but in all other respects it seems to underperform it.


Those two cheap PCs you link to have Celeron processors! They are not good comparisons, and having a MUCH better class of processor is not trivial to performance. A regular Mini is just $599 and a better bet for home media purposes—including the ability to play DVDs, unlike the server model. (Attach whatever extra storage if you wish. Will your movie/music playback need eSata speeds? No—especially when you’re serving the data over WiFi anyway! I agree, though, it’s nice to have another connection type.)

What you’re paying for with Apple’s server products is in large part the unlimited client license. That compares VERY well to anything from Microsoft.

(And I think this is aimed at small businesses—thus the multiple clients--more than media users. Though Apple does recognize that the Mini—including this model--is a hobby machine that people will use for whatever they can think of!)
post #6 of 177
It would have been really nice of Apple to include some support for backup'ing up our machines, so the price of a "Time Capsule minus a drive or two" could be subtracted from the overall price giving us a real comparison with Microsoft Home Server machines, which have a great backup solution built in.

--
Stephen
post #7 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

What this is really competing against is an HP MediaSmart Server LX195 or EX-490 that comes bundled with Windows Home Server for a total cost of $500. Like the mini it's 64-bit and comes with a server OS and is fully compatible with MacOS X. Unlike the mini it also supports eSATA for fast external drive attachment and has more internal expansion bays as well as selling in multiple configurations to suit your needs.

It's basically a stop-gap measure on Apple's part that seems a little over-priced and under-engineered for its task compared to HP's offering. Yes, it's got a faster processor than the HP but in all other respects it seems to underperform it.


Snow Leopard vs Windows Home Server? Really?

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post #8 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by spgennard View Post

It would have been really nice of Apple to include some support for backup'ing up our machines, so the price of a "Time Capsule minus a drive or two" could be subtracted from the overall price giving us a real comparison with Microsoft Home Server machines, which have a great backup solution built in.

--
Stephen

Good question. Snow Leopard (even the NON-server version) certainly has far better backup software included than Windows Home Server does. Time Machine is just amazing (speaking as one has been saved by it). So what about the drive? (You always want to back up to a different drive—so that’s an expense no matter what brand of machine.) I assume you could use one of the Mini’s internal drives as a Time Machine backup for the other. (I looked on Apple.com and as near as I could tell, it’s not set up as a RAID. But even if it is, you could change it with Disk Utility.)
post #9 of 177
There are two errors in the report regarding Microsoft Small Business server 2003.

1. The original release of SBS 2003 was limited to a Exchange 2003 database size of 18GB. However with the release of Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 this limit was increased to 75GB (which had to manually changed through a registry setting. The SBS 2003 R2 release included Exchange 2003 SP2 so the 18GB limit does not exist in this version, however you must make the registry change to have a mailstore above 18GB.

2. SBS 2003 CAL (Client Access Licences) can only be bought in 5, 10 or 20 units, not as individual. SBS 2008 however does allow the purchase of single licences as well as 5, 10 or 20.

My day job is SBS, my passion is Mac.
post #10 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

What this is really competing against is an HP MediaSmart Server LX195 or EX-490 that comes bundled with Windows Home Server for a total cost of $500. Like the mini it's 64-bit and comes with a server OS and is fully compatible with MacOS X. Unlike the mini it also supports eSATA for fast external drive attachment and has more internal expansion bays as well as selling in multiple configurations to suit your needs.

It's basically a stop-gap measure on Apple's part that seems a little over-priced and under-engineered for its task compared to HP's offering. Yes, it's got a faster processor than the HP but in all other respects it seems to underperform it.

If we're comparing the Mac mini server (Mms) to a WHS box then it's easy to see why the mini server is more money.

Mms supports RAID WHS only allows you to duplicate folders.
Mms supports a Mail server with Push (using Dovecot & Postfix) WHS has no mail serving
Mms support a Calendar server WHS does not
Mms supports Directory Services WHS does not
Mms supports web serving with Apache WHS does not

WHS does not offer anything like Netboot, NetInstall and NetRestore.
WHS does not offer anything like Portable Home Directories
WHS doesn't have a VPN, DHCP, NAT, Radius or Mobile Access Server


A Mac mini server running Snow Leopard server is not comparable to a anything running Windows Home Server if you're looking at a featureset that a business needs. The WHS systems are toys in comparison. There's a reason why they are $500.
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post #11 of 177
The fact Apple never wants to talk roadmaps and what products are planned for the future (which works so well for their consumer orientated business) is terrible for Businesses who need to make long term decisions and plan properly.
post #12 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by columbus View Post

The fact Apple never wants to talk roadmaps and what products are planned for the future (which works so well for their consumer orientated business) is terrible for Businesses who need to make long term decisions and plan properly.

Myth.

Who actually lives up to their roadmaps?

Intel cancels chips and Microsoft changes as well. If anything Apple's paucity of desktop and laptop models actuall increases their effectiveness because they have about the most stable platform you can get. Great for system imaging.
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post #13 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

While Appleinsider predicted the arrival of a new dual-drive, optical-free Mac mini, Apple managed keep secret its plans to introduce a new Mac mini server bundle up to its relatively subtle launch this week.

The guys at macminicolo accurately called this a year ago: http://www.macminicolo.net/state2008.html

Personally I wish they'd sell one without OS X Server for less dinero.

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post #14 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Good question. Snow Leopard (even the NON-server version) certainly has far better backup software included than Windows Home Server does. Time Machine is just amazing (speaking as one has been saved by it). So what about the drive? (You always want to back up to a different driveso thats an expense no matter what brand of machine.) I assume you could use one of the Minis internal drives as a Time Machine backup for the other. (I looked on Apple.com and as near as I could tell, its not set up as a RAID. But even if it is, you could change it with Disk Utility.)

"Time Capsule v Microsoft Home Server" is a debate in itself but ignoring usability the two are feature comparable. My preference is towards "Time Capsule".

However the fact the Apple Mini-Server does not include a solution for backup might well count against it when people start to add the actual cost of keeping a home/small business network safe.

My personal thoughts are Apple missed a beat by not adding some kind of "Time Capsule lite" in the package as it would have made it real "Home Server" stomper..
post #15 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by spgennard View Post

"Time Capsule v Microsoft Home Server" is a debate in itself but ignoring usability the two are feature comparable. My preference is towards "Time Capsule".

However the fact the Apple Mini-Server does not include a solution for backup might well count against it when people start to add the actual cost of keeping a home/small business network safe.

My personal thoughts are Apple missed a beat by not adding some kind of "Time Capsule lite" in the package as it would have made it real "Home Server" stomper..

Time Machine's weakness in this setting is that it doesn't work with blocks of data during backup. If you have a 50MB PST file on each client computer and daily/hourly that file changes Time Machine must back up the whole 50MB rather than just the delta block changes.

This is why a new filesystem is needed that deals with variable blocks so that Time Machine 2 becomes the backup solution that works over a network.
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post #16 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

What this is really competing against is an HP MediaSmart Server LX195 or EX-490 that comes bundled with Windows Home Server for a total cost of $500.

I know others have tackled the differences between the two, but let me more direct byt saying that no offering of Snow Leopard Server is competing with Windows Home Server.

While the HW setup and size of the Mini may suggest some competition, Snow Leopard Server is NOT designed for home users and Windows Home Server is NOT designed for business users.

I quite like WHS. I think MS actually has a winner there. The simplified remote access to your content over the internet and the ability to stream content using multiple codecs is quite nice for a MS offering. I do wish that Apple will make a competing product in this class, but I doubt it

I think the best we can hope for is a Time Capsule with a more robust OS and feature set, while Id like to have multiple 3.5 HDDs RAIDed for a large capacity central home storage system, which the Mac Mini is not. Note that HP MediaSmart Servers can also be used as Time Machine backup drive.

My only caveat with the HP offering is that this small device has a cheap fan that run much louder than the Mac Pro. If it bothers you, like me, its not hard to put in a quieter running fan.
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post #17 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Time Machine's weakness in this setting is that it doesn't work with blocks of data during backup. If you have a 50MB PST file on each client computer and daily/hourly that file changes Time Machine must back up the whole 50MB rather than just the delta block changes.

This is why a new filesystem is needed that deals with variable blocks so that Time Machine 2 becomes the backup solution that works over a network.

That makes sense, so I guess it comes down to the fact the little machine needs bigger/more reliable drives to support a time capsule feature or two... and at this point the price point is completely blown away... so Apple just could'nt do it for the price.

Ahh well... I can always dream...
post #18 of 177
While I applaud their effort in trying to mix things up, this really doesn't seem like it has a lot of potential. This thing would have little value as a business solution (no redundancy) and for a home solution. But hey I thought the MacBook Air was a terrible idea and it's selling.

So do you have to get the "Server version" without Snow Leopard Server?
post #19 of 177
Dan you're tiresome to read. Instead of naming your articles things like "Inside Apple's new Mac mini Server" it should be called "Why Windows Server products suck compared to the new Mac mini server... a rant by Dan"

I'm reading an Apple specific site. I am already convinced not to buy Windows products so stop lambasting them and tell me about what I want to know about - the new Mac mini. Your primary audience are Mac fanboys so write an article about MACS and not why Macs are better than Windows PCs because I'm already convinced.
post #20 of 177
A comparison of hardware is all that is required, the software can be gleaned from the internets for free. For 500-600 dollars you can get a very nice computer to use as a server, and all the software and licenses required.

Lets try to get one in less than 2 minutes....

okay for an OS you can use any linux, Ubuntu server edition sounds appropriate, or you can put Samba on any other. Price = 0

for hardware, lets just grab a box which is equivalent, cheap, and upgradable....

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16883103220

dual boot with linux to keep the pretty vista
throw a couple more harddrives in if you need it.
if you need to scale up, another pci lan card, and maybe a full raid sas card.... lets see the mac mini do that.... Price: 429

total price: 429
for a thousand dollars you can build a beautiful computer.
That was about 1 minute of browsing.. this advertising is thin.
post #21 of 177
I'm a windows guy and I think SBS is a ripoff for a small business. Most are better with renting out a vm from their ISP and not buying any hardware. for backups just use amazon s3 or mozy
post #22 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by spgennard View Post

My personal thoughts are Apple missed a beat by not adding some kind of "Time Capsule lite" in the package as it would have made it real "Home Server" stomper..

I don’t see how that would be a viable product. I guess you could use the Ethernet port to connect it to the cable/DSL modem, and turn on Internet Sharing to make it a WiFi router, but you loose the 1000BASE-T switch. Then you only get HDDs spinning at 5400RPM for the price of $999 while the Time Capsule for the same capacity and only 30% of it’s cost spins at 7200RPM. For 50% of the Mac Mini Server’s price you can get a 2TB HDD, still spinning at 7200RPMs. I don’t see the benefit, even without considering the loss of range and dual band networking.

What I would like it a taller Time Capsule with more drives, actually using a stripped down version of OS X for a robust experience in the vein of MS’ Windows Home Server. That is something I could sink my teeth into.
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post #23 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by spgennard View Post

That makes sense, so I guess it comes down to the fact the little machine needs bigger/more reliable drives to support a time capsule feature or two... and at this point the price point is completely blown away... so Apple just could'nt do it for the price.

Ahh well... I can always dream...

I think you're right on target with what you want and the only thing preventing it from happening is we don't have the filesystem that can manage the small block data. If you're a "glass half full" guy you will take the announcement that Sun's ZFS filesystem is no longer a candidate for Apple as "well Apple must have something better that they will go with.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lunga View Post

While I applaud their effort in trying to mix things up, this really doesn't seem like it has a lot of potential. This thing would have little value as a business solution (no redundancy) and for a home solution. But hey I thought the MacBook Air was a terrible idea and it's selling.

So do you have to get the "Server version" without Snow Leopard Server?

Lunga ..while the two drives included don't come in a RAID 1 configuration it's pretty easy to set that up for boot drive redundancy. I think the ideal setup would be have a Mms with RAID 1 boot drive and then store files on an external NAS.
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post #24 of 177
I see a lot of posts nattering about various comparisons to other products. But who can compare it to what they are actually doing right now, today? Let me give you some data.

For years now, I've been running a home file server with many of these features. It is a Gentoo linux box. RAID mirroring, and real, rotating back-ups to off-line storage. Samba shares. An IMAP mail server. Group calendaring for iCal using webdav. It's all possible, but it takes dedication, a lot of research, and is by no means turn-key. It's not a simple "to-do" -- it's a lifestyle. The client pool consists of OS 10.4, 10.5 machines, Linux machines, and a couple of motley XP machines. The only thing I want that I gave up on implementing is VPN.

From the spec sheet, this box looks very sweet. I could use one of these and an Airport extreme to get everything that I have now, plus all the VPN functionality that I want. And if it all works as advertised, it would only take a couple of hours to set up and test. Click for iCal, click for Samba. I'm sure IMAP would take some config files -- now I use fetchmail to pull mail from POP3 accounts and requeue the mail to my IMAP server -- it's not clear how you would do that with Apple's product. Backups with Time Machine, which in my experience is the slickest back up solution ever, and I've taken backup seriously for years and have a stack of obsolete tape units to prove it.

Of course, the Devil is in the details, and the detail to worry about is what happens if you wander off the reservation? How hard would it be for me to configure mail requeueing with fetchmail? How hard would it be for me to move over my git repos and get a git server running? Or any other funky server process? Those are the questions that I want answered.

So anyway, it sounds like it could save me bundles of time. As a contract developer, I have a hard number for what an hour of my time is worth. At $999 for the server, and, what is an airport, $250?? anyway... that's a no-brainer. If it all works as advertised, it's an outstanding bargain. And I'm no Apple fan-boi, I just want a solid, easy to maintain Unix. Apple, for the most part, has it.

Before anybody slags on this box, go try to duplicate the functionality in some other way at any price.
post #25 of 177
[QUOTE=hmurchison;1507588]I think you're right on target with what you want and the only thing preventing it from happening is we don't have the filesystem that can manage the small block data. If you're a "glass half full" guy you will take the announcement that Sun's ZFS filesystem is no longer a candidate for Apple as "well Apple must have something better that they will go with.

I think Apple have this under control or at least are planning for something, as they are already recruiting in this area, so I think they have it under control...

re: http://jobs.apple.com/index.ajs?BID=...&CurrentPage=2
post #26 of 177
On August 28, the day it became available, I purchased OSX SL Server, and I had my MacMini sitting ready with a clean hard drive, with a 1TB external HD for back-ups. The goal was (and is) to set up a small home office network, with two websites, a number of email clients, etc.

So I wasn't too happy to see Apple come out with a similar but better equipped set-up, but oh well, too late now.

Today, I am still struggling to get it going. I must honestly say that I don't have any kowledge or background (education) in computer science, but I had hoped to get it going with some help from Apple for example and searching the Internet.

Not so.

The information that's available is of limited use, and mostly written by and for people with extensive knowledge of server software.
Even worse, Apple support bluntly told me to stop trying to set it up and have a consultant come over to do the job. After I heard their prices, I decided to keep trying myself.

So what I need and what I am hoping to find someday is a step-by-step instruction manual that shows the appropriate screen shots, what to enter where and why, and what can happen if you enter the wrong information (usually those step-by-step manuals only show the ideal situation: "Enter x and continue to the following screen". However, after doing that, my computer says "invalid entry". For the manual, this doesn't seem to be a possibility, which renders it useless from there on). I pre-ordered the book mentioned in the main article, but I won't hold my breath that it will be the answer to my needs. Just know that I will not give up and eventually will run my own OSX server!
post #27 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by CanWire View Post

A comparison of hardware is all that is required, the software can be gleaned from the internets for free. For 500-600 dollars you can get a very nice computer to use as a server, and all the software and licenses required.

Lets try to get one in less than 2 minutes....

okay for an OS you can use any linux, Ubuntu server edition sounds appropriate, or you can put Samba on any other. Price = 0

for hardware, lets just grab a box which is equivalent, cheap, and upgradable....

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16883103220

dual boot with linux to keep the pretty vista
throw a couple more harddrives in if you need it.
if you need to scale up, another pci lan card, and maybe a full raid sas card.... lets see the mac mini do that.... Price: 429

total price: 429
for a thousand dollars you can build a beautiful computer.
That was about 1 minute of browsing.. this advertising is thin.

And have you done it? How much of your time did it take? How much of your time do you spend keeping the system patched and up to date? At what hourly rate do you bill out your time? I have actual numbers for all those questions, and it makes this server box look pretty good.
post #28 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roos24 View Post


Today, I am still struggling to get it going. I must honestly say that I don't have any kowledge or background (education) in computer science, but I had hoped to get it going with some help from Apple for example and searching the Internet.

Not so.

This is why I don't get the comparison with Windows Home Server. OS X Server has an abundance of services and features and it's not easy to setup and get running. It's "relatively" easy because the same issues/decisions you make for OS X would have to be done on Linux or Windows as well.

Roos24 keep at it ..once you get it done 80% of what you've configured would apply to other server setup as well.
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post #29 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Myth.

Who actually lives up to their roadmaps?

Intel cancels chips and Microsoft changes as well. If anything Apple's paucity of desktop and laptop models actuall increases their effectiveness because they have about the most stable platform you can get. Great for system imaging.

Without roadmaps, businesses are less likely to invest. If they want to support these servers and then Apple ups and cancels them because they aren’t selling enough, then they are screwed. Businesses need that accountability and other vendors offer it, in writing. Apple will never heavily crack into business with Macs and Xserve as long as they keep this consumer focused mentality. I don’t think this is a problem for Apple, it’s just a different business model.
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post #30 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

If we're comparing the Mac mini server (Mms) to a WHS box then it's easy to see why the mini server is more money.

1. Mms supports RAID WHS only allows you to duplicate folders.
2. Mms supports a Mail server with Push (using Dovecot & Postfix) WHS has no mail serving
3. Mms support a Calendar server WHS does not
4. Mms supports Directory Services WHS does not
5. Mms supports web serving with Apache WHS does not

6. WHS does not offer anything like Netboot, NetInstall and NetRestore.
7. WHS does not offer anything like Portable Home Directories
8. WHS doesn't have a VPN, DHCP, NAT, Radius or Mobile Access Server


A Mac mini server running Snow Leopard server is not comparable to a anything running Windows Home Server if you're looking at a featureset that a business needs. The WHS systems are toys in comparison. There's a reason why they are $500.

Actually WHS does do many of these things.

1. It does do RAID & also allows you to do selective mirroring through software.
2. Can be added
3. Can be added
4. Can be added
5. Is a web server

6., 7., & 8. I don't know what those things are, but I do know that I can access my WHS from my blackberry to download files. It also works with the iPhone & Windows Mobile. I also stream movies over the internet when I'm traveling from my WHS.
post #31 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Without roadmaps, businesses are less likely to invest. If they want to support these servers and then Apple ups and cancels them because they arent selling enough, then they are screwed. Businesses need that accountability and other vendors offer it, in writing. Apple will never crack into business with Macs and Xserve as long as they keep this consumer focused mentality. I dont think this is a problem for Apple, its just a different business model.

The problem is that businesses "think" they need these roadmaps for planning but your typical IT expenditure is on a 36 month or longer cycle. If we look back 36 months ago no one knew or would be planning on Nehalem beating Opteron servers. Or the impact of smartphones. Hey though I understand their position ...I'd rather know than not know.
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post #32 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by clexman View Post

Actually WHS does do many of these things.

What are these many, but not all, things? It doesnt do RAID, you have to get that from HW RAID, though I prefer that.
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post #33 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by swim2383 View Post

Dan you're tiresome to read. Instead of naming your articles things like "Inside Apple's new Mac mini Server" it should be called "Why Windows Server products suck compared to the new Mac mini server... a rant by Dan"

I'm reading an Apple specific site. I am already convinced not to buy Windows products so stop lambasting them and tell me about what I want to know about - the new Mac mini. Your primary audience are Mac fanboys so write an article about MACS and not why Macs are better than Windows PCs because I'm already convinced.

I agree!
post #34 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

What are these many, but not all, things? It doesnt do RAID, you have to get that from HW RAID, though I prefer that.

Here's a blog posting from the WHS team explaining their objectives.

http://blogs.technet.com/homeserver/...echnology.aspx

Quote:
Those same geeks, when encountering Windows Home Server for the first time, often ask the question "Why doesn't Windows Home Server use RAID?". The simplest answer is RAID sucks as the basis for a consumer storage product. But, my PR team would rather I not say it in such a negative way. Instead, they want me to say something positive like:

"Windows Home Server is a consumer product that provides an amazingly powerful yet super-simple to use solution to centralizing a mutli-PC household's storage. Windows Home Server includes a new, revolutionary storage technology we call Windows Home Server Drive Extender that kicks RAID's butt."

Also here is a comprehensive list of WHS add-ins

http://whsaddins.com/


I'd rather have everything coming from one source. With Snow Leopard Server I know that the Apache version works and I know that iChat Server works with the other components of the OS. Add ins are nice but hell I've seen add-ins wreck the stability of Office 2007...I'm a bit loath to put them on a product I expect to be up and reliable.
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post #35 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

What are these many, but not all, things? It doesnt do RAID, you have to get that from HW RAID, though I prefer that.

Of course you have to set up raid through hardware...
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post #36 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by CanWire View Post

A comparison of hardware is all that is required, the software can be gleaned from the internets for free. For 500-600 dollars you can get a very nice computer to use as a server, and all the software and licenses required.

Lets try to get one in less than 2 minutes....

okay for an OS you can use any linux, Ubuntu server edition sounds appropriate, or you can put Samba on any other. Price = 0

for hardware, lets just grab a box which is equivalent, cheap, and upgradable....

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16883103220

dual boot with linux to keep the pretty vista
throw a couple more harddrives in if you need it.
if you need to scale up, another pci lan card, and maybe a full raid sas card.... lets see the mac mini do that.... Price: 429

total price: 429
for a thousand dollars you can build a beautiful computer.
That was about 1 minute of browsing.. this advertising is thin.

This is such a bullshit post it's not even funny.
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post #37 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

This all sounds great however, how much of it really works? For example, Leopard's Time Machine Server fails to reconnect the server drive after a client's computer goes into sleep mode. Much of OSX Server sounds really good on paper but performs lousy in real life.

It doesn't matter to the author, he of "Roughlydrafted" fame, who uses up 2/3 of every "Apple" article to attempt to tear down Microsoft any way he can.

I'm a little disappointed to see him getting more press here at Appleinsider. (Such as the story about Microsoft and the Sidekick restore situation, where he based a whole story around guesses from an "expert" not involved in the recovery at all.

Steve
post #38 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

It's basically a stop-gap measure on Apple's part that seems a little over-priced and under-engineered for its task compared to HP's offering. Yes, it's got a faster processor than the HP but in all other respects it seems to underperform it.

It's not competing against Windows Home Server products. There are no consumer facing features in OSX Server that a standard OSX Client install lacks. File sharing is obviously the single biggest thing you'd want from a home server -- in which case a $200 G4 tower would be completely sufficient or if you want to get fancy a $600 Mini without OSX Server. The Mini Server may evolve into a consumer product someday but right now it's really targeted at small offices or home offices that are primarily using Macs. Think of the average small startup or consulting business with 5 or 6 employees in a cramped little office. A home user with many Macs could probably benefit from some of the features however they are not designed with consumer friendly GUIs so it would definitely be a power user tool at that point.

This product is basically a reflection of Apple's improved Mac sales. As you add more computers server based authentication, management, storage, backups, etc become more important.
post #39 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Good question. Snow Leopard (even the NON-server version) certainly has far better backup software included than Windows Home Server does.

It does? Windows Home Server will backup all clients automatically at times you choose, and even WAKE UP machines that are asleep (which have wake on LAN capabilities).

WHS also does de-duplication and will only backup a file once, no matter how many machines it resides on.

Vendors like HP add additional capabilities like Amazon S3 backups automatically and even Time Machine target computability.

Steve
post #40 of 177
[QUOTE=hmurchison;1507572]If we're comparing the Mac mini server (Mms) to a WHS box then it's easy to see why the mini server is more money.

Mms supports RAID WHS only allows you to duplicate folders. {/QUOTE]

MMS supports RAID?

Steve
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